“Put together a government whose functionaries are hell-bent on making money for self and associates at all costs, add a minister who is ready to sell his own soul to the devil for money from whatever quarter, add a President who sees nothing wrong in being unable to separate his private and government coffers and into this mix put a parliament made up of bleating goats ready to sing any song that lines their pockets and finally coat the mixture with a nest of vipers passing off as journalists whose pockets have ever-yawning chasms. And Presto, you have the right combination. Corruption that beggars belief!!!”.
This is a statement attributed to Frank Vasilis Timis, a Romanian born, Australian businessman and former convict. He is said to be a shady character who, by hook or crook, managed to arrange a sweetheart deal awarding him virtual control over most of Sierra Leone’s iron ore industry for over 90 years. This was during the reign of former President Ernest Bai Koroma.
But Frank Timis, who is also said to have been linked to a shady company Elenito, could have easily been referring to Liberia. And his statement is a very apt description of the situation here in Liberia especially in view of this recent election of Representative Jonathan Fonati Koffa as Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives.
But just who is Jonathan Fonati Koffa, now standing fourth in line of succession to the Presidency? Suggestions that he actively campaigned for the post have left tongues wagging as to what this individual actually wants. Is it money, wealth and or fame like his legislative counterpart and lawyer Senator Varney Sherman who has now been sanctioned by the US government?
Unlike Senator Sherman who is accused of bribing judges and court officials to secure judgements in his favor, newly elected Deputy Speaker J. Fonati Koffa was not only accused, he was convicted and sent to jail for stealing clients’ money when he served as Zebulon Town Manager in North Carolina, U.S.A.
At his trial he claimed that he used the money to fund development projects in Liberia although the facts on this are elusive. Sources say he reinvented himself during the reign of President Sirleaf with is appointment as lead prosecutor in the Sable Mining bribery case.
Informed sources say President Sirleaf allegedly pumped US$4 million, through the National Security Agency (NSA) into prosecutorial efforts to bring a guilty verdict against Senator Varney Sherman and others including former House Speaker Alex Tyler. Representative Koffa was lead prosecutor in the now fizzled out bribery case.
His political career, according to sources, was birthed by Liberty Party leader Charles Brumskine. I had been a prominent member of that Party. But his mentor Brumskine would lose the hotly contested 2017 elections to George Weah.
Later, he would switch allegiance to the CDC when President Weah came to office. Informed sources say since then he has allegedly become a powerful power broker having found a niche in that party as an ideologue. His law firm has now allegedly become the new Mecca attracting high-profile clients.
But, of rising public concern is what some analysts have called the lack of regional and geographical balance as well as the lack of gender sensitivity reflected in the vote outcome that saw J. Fonati Koffa emerging as winner.
This means that virtually the entire leadership of both Houses hail from the same region and from the same party. However, this appears to be a big minus for President Weah who prides himself as Feminist-in-Chief.
Now, questions are being asked and perhaps rightly so why would members of the House of Representatives elect a former convicted criminal to lead them. Are they not aware of the implications of electing someone who had previously been convicted of a criminal offense and served jail time in the US?
But admittedly, according to an opposition politician, there were underlying fears that the vote would have gone the CDC way given the pattern of voting in the legislature and the historic influence that BROWN ENVELOPES play in determining vote outcome particularly during the passage of concession agreements.
And this appears to have been the situation in this case. Informed sources have alleged that members of the House who voted in favor of Koffa were feted at the Farmington Hotel, wined, dined and presented with BROWN ENVELOPES containing US$5,000 to secure the winning vote. But some members (names withheld) when contacted, denied the allegation.
But such denials are not surprising. Hasn’t President Sirleaf consistently denied that the many concession agreements (64 out of 66) signed under her watch lacked transparency according to the Moore-Stephens Report?
Further, did Liberian legislators not approve in lightning fashion the failed Eton-Ebomaf loan agreement even after being warned that the deal was bogus?
Additionally, were legislators Bhofal Chambers, Jeremiah Koung and others not implicated in illegal manipulation of the budget and misdirection of funds to private purposes?
Also, were not Representatives Ketteh Kumeh Murray and others linked to bogus deals and virtual stealing of funds for the construction of the Bong Community College?
Additionally, did not the President of the Senate and Vice President, at the advent of this administration openly declare “dat our time to eat”, meaning they now had the right to plunder the nation’s resources/coffers?
And now, the election of a former US convict, according to a retired diplomat, has revealed that the interests of the Liberian people have been betrayed by those Representatives who allegedly received inducement to vote Koffa into office.
Vasilis Frank Timis could easily be at home here and so we ask the question, is our Liberian parliament actually made up of “bleating goats ready to sing any song that lines their pockets”? What would they say if, just what if Deputy Speaker Koffa is also sanctioned as Senator Sherman? Lest we forget, Senator Sherman is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee while Deputy Speaker chairs the House Judiciary Committee.